Thursday, 30 September 2010

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

 By Abby of Love Made the Radish Grow
Though there have been no gluts of tomatoes this year, the plants we did get in are doing very well. I canned a bit of diced tomatoes to use for salsa throughout the winter, as we do not like canned salsa. The other big thing we use is sauce for pizza and pasta. I do not like just pureeing tomatoes and trying to get them cooked down and thickened up at the last minute-usually we have pizza or pasta when we are running short on time, so I needed a grab and go sauce. I found a recipe for an oven roasted sauce, and tweaked it a bit to our taste. It turned out beautifully and was very simple.
First, cut up enough tomatoes to generously fill a 9X13 or standard sized rectangular casserole dish. Put some olive oil in the bottom before you toss them in to help them from sticking and add flavor. I used about 1/4 c.  I kept the tomatoes in quarters-anything smaller and it can get very tedious to pick out the skins later. Then I quartered one onion and broke up the cloves of one large head of garlic, though I DID NOT skin them and put all of that on top. I also had a couple sweet peppers in there somewhere just chopped a bit.
Put all of this in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes, then turn it down to 350 for another hour to two hours. Just watch everything roast. Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooked down (their insides should squish well and the skins just fall off) and your garlic squeezes right out of the skins, you are done cooking.
Let everything rest on the counter until it cools enough you can handle it. It may take a while. Just cover it up and do something else. Once it is cool, squeeze the garlic out of its skins and remove all the tomatoes skins you find. All those skins will make your sauce bitter. Start moving the veggies to a food processor-it took a couple batches to get everything done.  Once you have pureed everything to a sauce, including all the juices in the bottom of the pan, mix your batches together and season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil and sugar to your taste. Fill jars and process 35 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure in your pressure canner.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Home Brew Beer

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin.

Enough words, time for some movies on the SGFC.

I ran a beer making workshop a few months ago, and want to share it all with you today.  It is in three parts, so those who are interested in making your own beer from a kit, enjoy the show and I hope you learn or can share it with your partner.  You even get to hear my cool Aussie accent!


If you want to see how my beer turned out, have a look at this post titled "Beer Tasting".  It all tastes great, and it is very cheap at 46 cents a 750ml bottle.  The initial set up cost was about $80 for the first batch and all the equipment, but every brew after that, the price reduces as you pay back you set up cost from the savings.  Suffice to say that I have not bought a beer for a very long time.

Just a reminder.  Please drink in moderation.  Having an abundant supply of the amber nectar does not necessarily mean you have to drink more.  Words of wisdom from a man who knows!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Uses for Cracklings and Lard

 by Danelle @ My Total Perspective Vortex

Cracklings waiting to be strained off of melted lard.
"Cracklings (American) or crackling (British) is a crisp, deep fried food that may be made from various animals. Pork rind cracklings are popular in the American south. The skin of all kinds of poultry are used to make cracklings, including duck, chicken, goose and game birds. Some classic dishes, such as cassoulet depend on a top crust made crunchy by turning the skin of the duck used in the dish into a topping. Cracklings of all kinds are eaten plain, folded into breads and dumplings, and sprinkled atop dishes on their way to the table to add crunch. They are part of all traditional European cuisines, since the use of all parts of a butchered animal was nutritionally and economically important. They are called Gribenes and traditionally made from goose or chicken in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine."- from Wikipedia

So that's what they are. Our fat comes ground from our butcher so we're not going to get nice little squares to be made into chips. However, there are LOTS of tasty uses for cracklings here at the farm!

The crackling product coming from or off of the slow cooker, low heat fat rendering into lard, looks like underdone ground pork. It is less meaty and more fatty and smells a bit like bacon. It needs to be cooked more before using, but stores best at this fresh off the lard form.

So to use it, thaw it. Then fry it up in a cast iron skillet over low to medium heat until it is crispy (high temps you risk flash point and lots of smoke). At this point, depending on how I am going to use it, I season it with a garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne mix I use instead of plain salt. You can season it to taste many different ways, but the Cajun in me prefers cayenne. I've also uses thyme, salt, and cayenne with a bit of maple syrup. Look at what application you'll be putting them to, and season accordingly. I find that they have a slightly porky flavour unseasoned, but that it is rather bland.

So fried up and crisped and seasoned, what now?
  • I use in place of bacon bits on salad greens.
  • Mixed up with bread crumbs for casserole toppings. 
  • Green bean casserole, as an ingredient and with the fried onion bits that go on top.
  • I intend to also use in white gravy for biscuits and gravy, but have not yet.
  • As a pan liner for cornbread. If used like this really pay attention to seasoning, it will carry the bread.
  • Sprinkle on roasts just before serving. 
  • Add to brown gravies just before serving.
  • Mix with cream cheese or sour cream as a spread or dip.
So you see, it is more of a condiment, has a lot of flexibility, and use.

Now lard is just as easy. Any recipe that says use vegetable shortening (Crisco), substitute 1:1 for lard. Pretty easy that. You'll get flakier pie crusts, more tender cookies, lovely sweets. 

Other uses:
  • Greasing pans for pancakes and egg or fish frying, for cakes and breads.
  • Slice open lean roasts and tuck in a bit of lard. Makes for really tender meat. Especially useful for dry lean venison roasts. 
  • Oven fried potatoes, use instead of whatever oil you'd use. We used to use olive or peanut oil.
  • Fried chicken. Pan fried or deep fried. Results in a really crisp and delicious chicken breast. 
  • Dutch oven popcorn. 2 Tablespoons of lard, 1 teaspoon of salt, cover the bottom of the oven with kernels, cover and heat. When popping is done, remove from heat.  So incredibly good (can also be made with bacon grease, btw). 
  • Fried with plantains and served with rice
  • Added to Asian style stir fry and fried rice (seasoned with soy sauce)
Last weekend I made plain old sugar cookies with lard instead of shortening as a taste test sample at a local farm open house. I used the most basic sugar cookie recipe I could find, no added flavours like cinnamon or vanilla. I subbed the lard and I switched out the called for corn syrup with maple syrup. These cookies were good. Not fabulous, but lots of people comment on the fact that they'd thought there would be a porky flavour from the lard and they just tasted like sugar cookies. That is exactly why I made them. There was even an older baby who'd never had a cookie before, and his mom gave him my cookie as his first! That was really flattering.

5 years ago my husband brought home lard for pie making and was super excited to use it. I was totally grossed out. At that point I still thought I had to microwave my food to make it safe to eat, even fresh out of the oven food would get zapped for 30 seconds. How far I've come that I now raise and render my own lard. Food for thought, I guess.

Are there any uses I have left out? What do you or would you use lard and cracklings for?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Assembling a 1st Aid or Emergency Kit

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

Recently I was fortunate enough to have a young man with EMT training and work experience as a guest in my home.  When I told him I was interested in putting together first aid kits for my home and car he kindly retrieved his own emergency medical kit from his car and spent about an hour going through it with me, explaining the use of each item.  I thought this would be valuable information to share with the readers here.  This is a summary of what he told me.

Look at a surplus military supply outlet for a good backpack to hold your kit.  It should have one zipper that allows the pack to open up completely and lay flat, so that you can see most or all of your supplies at a glance.  It's helpful to have small slots to hold some medical tools and supplies in place so that they don't jostle around inside.  He also liked the particular pack he carries because it can expand outward by means of "bellows" construction compartments, but the pack can also be fastened down as tightly as the contents allow by means of straps on the outside.

When he opened his pack and laid it out on the floor, one side had a mesh screen which clearly showed the contents of that half of the pack.  Here, he said, he kept the items he might need most quickly, such as:
  • a face mask (for himself), 
  • latex gloves
  • blood stopper bandages - which can either be stuffed into a large wound or rolled all the way around a torso or thigh
  • Quickclot - a powdered substance that can be poured into a large wound to clot it very quickly through chemical action.  Interestingly, he would be prohibited from using this as a working EMT, but it's legal for ordinary people to carry and use.
  • antibacterial, single use towelettes 
  • triangular bandage, which can be used as a sling, comes with safety pins, and is sometimes called a "cravat"
On the other side of his pack he carried the following:
  • saline solution in a spray tip bottle - good for flushing out wounds and many other purposes
  • triple antibiotic ointment - both a large tube and single use packets
  • a space blanket - good for hypothermia victims, but he also said it's a good emergency shelter
  • Sam splint - a splint that can be cut to fit anything from a finger to an elbow, and though flexible, will hold its shape and support a great deal of body weight
  • tampons - sterile and designed to be highly absorbent, so as good for puncture wounds as for menstruation
  • fabric tape and water proof tape - good for all kinds of bandaging and splinting
  • Ace coflex bandage - looks like the familiar tan fabric binding, but this stuff sticks to itself which is very useful when you need a lot of pressure applied constantly
  • Instant cold pack - a chemical snap pack that can provide instant cold, but only over a very short period
  • burn gel - a liquid coated bandage used as first treatment for a relatively small 2nd or 3rd degree burn
  • sterile gauze pads in various sizes
In the outer pockets of his backpack were other items, such as:
  • plastic oral pharyngeal airways, also called "artificial airways" - these come in graduated sizes and are placed all the way at the back of the mouth of an unconscious person to maintain an open airway
  • medical shears - he said they'll cut through absolutely anything a person might be wearing, critical if you need to get at a bullet wound or cut through an underwire bra to use a defibrillator
  • CPR masks - these provide a one-way barrier against infection, in favor of the person providing aid
  • tongue depressors - good for depressing tongues or improvising finger splints
  • hemostats (2) - he said the most likely scenario for him to use them would be if he were to help a woman deliver a baby
  • seat belt cutter - looks like some envelope cutters I've seen, but used to safely and quickly cut through a seat belt to remove an accident victim from a vehicle
  • window punch - used to shatter tempered glass in cars, but won't work on the windshield, only side windows, and you need to wear a glove when using one of these
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • glucose gel - for diabetics in a coma
  • ear plugs
He also recommended a website to me as a good place to find the sorts of supplies he carries at very reasonable rates.  Although you must order from Moore Medical in bulk quantities, he said that the bulk quantities weren't huge, and in any case you'd often pay the same price for one or two bandages at a drug store as you'd pay for 100 by ordering through the website.   It seems to me that since I want three separate kits anyway, buying in bulk isn't so very unreasonable.  If I can find even one other family who wants one kit for their home and two for their vehicles, that's a six-way split for any items purchased in bulk.

Taking a first aid class and putting together first aid kits has been on my goal list since the beginning of this year. Although I have yet to schedule my husband and myself for Red Cross classes, I now feel that I can at least get started with putting together some basic supplies.  And perhaps paying attention to such hope-we-never-need-it stuff will encourage me to find a class at a time convenient to both of us.  

Do you have first aid or emergency kits in your home or vehicle?  If you do and you include any items not listed here, please share in the comments.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Autumnal Chores

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
As the nights get longer and cooler, my indolent summer grasshopper ways give way to a spate of ant-like autumnal activity. Of course, like any good ant, there's the annual season's end garden harvesting and putting by. Thankfully, a kitchen full of steam from vast pots of boiling water is now much easier to withstand in the cooler daytime temperatures. But the kitchen isn't the only place seeing activity.

By the end of August, the cellar stores are at their lowest point - only a few apples and the last bit of sauerkraut remain. Those move up to the refrigerator. The storage racks easily come apart and are taken outside. Next, the floor gets a good sweeping, then the walls washed down with a long-handled brush and a bucket of water with a bit of bleach added. Storage bins and the racks get scrubbed down too, and left to dry out in the sunlight. This annual cleaning keeps pests or bacteria from ruining the food we'll be eating throughout the winter.

Once the cellar is clean and put back together, it's time to start getting the inside temperature down. I open up the cellar door nightly, on my way back from closing up the chicken coop. A screened frame made to fit over the stairwell keeps critters and falling leaves out, while still allowing the colder night air to sink down inside and the warmer air rises through the vent in the back corner. Each morning, on his way back from opening up the coop for the day, Aries closes everything back up, trapping the cooler air down there in the dark. By the time the apples and root crops are ready, the cellar should be ready too.

The house has stayed warm enough that we haven't had to light a fire yet, but we know that time isn't too far off. The wood stove pulled out, the chimney gets cleaned and inspected. Soon, the wood and kindling boxes will need to be filled.

My nesting instinct really kicks in now too. I want a warm and cozy nest to curl up in when the snow starts falling. The lighter summer bedding and table linens are washed, line-dried, and stored, as heavier autumnal textiles take their place. The equinoxes are my reminders to turn our mattress - "equalizing the wear" so to speak. While I enjoy the newness of each of my seasonal changes in decor in their turn, the fall colors are my favorite. I love the golds of autumn, both inside and out.